Archive for December, 2013

It’s Still Christmas

Well it is the 27th of December and the Christmas trees are piling up over in the empty lot for pick up. Seriously? Here in America it is quickly off to the next major way to make a buck. Many of us observed with disdain as space committed to  Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day was prepared in the middle of December. It was as if, consumers would be confused if they were not prompted what to buy next. Don’t forget people, in the midst of your materialistic nightmare, that there are other holidays on the horizon, save some dough for that too.

Why must we rush through everything as if it is no more important than blowing our nose and tossing away the Kleenex? Can we say, disposable, temporary, insatiable appetite for MORE ?

As Catholics, Christmas begins on December 25th and we celebrate it through the Epiphany, January 5th 2014, when the Magi came to worship the new baby King.

Now is not the time to defrock the tree, de-tangle the lights or dismantle the holiday spirit. It is the time to celebrate with great joy when Love incarnated and dwelt among us.

Smile, be joyful, keep wishing those you encounter a cheery Merry Christmas-show the world that CHRISTmas makes a difference in us personally and in those we interact with. THAT is the Spirit of Christmas and Christ among us transforming the world today through us.

Merry Christmas!!!


Through His Mother

“Jesus, takes the initiative to meet man through his Mother.” (Msgr. Sanchez)

As I continue to read, ponder and reflect on the role of the Virgin Mary, I come to love her and honor her all the more. Her fiat was a blank check paid for in tears and with immense love. She could not have known all that would come her way with that yes, but what a model in humility, trust, and surrender to the Divine Will.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according to your word.” said the Mother in response to the Angel Gabriel. “Not my will, but Yours be done” said the Son to the Father.

Like Mother, like Son.

What will the children of the Father do in imitation of such witnesses?

I try and remember this as I go about my day when things do not go as planned, when others abuse my trust, disappoint me…when I want to walk away; I surrender and say ‘yes” for the thousandth time in imitation of my Mother who must have said it again and again with every breath she took.

Walking away, quitting, giving up when it gets tough out there is easy. It is simple to throw up our hands, shake our heads and acknowledge defeat. It is a whole different matter in the face of injustice, hate, persecution and deceit to roll up our sleeves, say a prayer and face the torrent. Yet, that IS what we are called to do. Every moment of every day that we breath oxygen, we are called to let our little light shine in the darkness.

A single light can shatter the darkness.

Mary was a radiant light in the midst of a very dark world. A young woman remaining faithful despite the odds. She was so in tune with God, so disposed to His tiny whisper, that the only proper response to His messenger was yes. Was she frightened? Sure, who wouldn’t be. It can be downright nasty and wicked out there in the world.

But like this beautiful model of humility and love, let us say yes too; and little by little it won’t be quite so dark out there if we ALL let our little lights shine.

Oh Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Oh December

Oh December…why must ye fly so quickly by?
I’ve much to do, no time to sigh.
Cards to mail, gifts to buy
and chocolate to bake, I’m not gonna lie.
Perhaps we might consider,
elongating this month, a simple fort nigh’?
Why imagine the time it would buy!
We could smile and be merry,
greeting each passer-by,
spreading joy, with a friendly, and heart-felt, hi!
God’s love to you, all His blessings enjoy,
tis the season of love, for each girl and boy.
So remember this, when gifts we give
they are only a reflection of the life we live.
Love one another the whole year through
in every encounter, and in all that you do.

Everything Points to Something

Everywhere we look there are signs. They point us to destinations, tell us when to use caution, where to go to find something, seek help and so on.

What are the signs we find at this time of the year? The weather has changed, the leaves have fallen, brilliant light displays are everywhere, the stores are jammed, sales are shouted from the radio and plastered all over the papers. People are rushing around just a little more than usual, driving a little more erratic, less courteous than ever. There is an urgency that I detect, but for what?

As Catholic Christians, we sense that something bigger is at stake here in the hustle and bustle. It isn’t just about gift buying, cookie making and wrapped presents. There is an event that looms ahead in a few short weeks that begins again, renews and reminds us that Immanuel God is coming. He hasn’t forgotten us, and comes to us as an innocent child ready to take on the world and all that disturbs it.

At this time of the year, I love listening to Point of Grace, A Christmas Story. When Love Came Down starts off the playlist and reminds us that it is Love that came at Christmas. What we need to combat the chaos is Love. It is God’s love that transforms hate into love, despair into hope, pain and hurt into meaning.

It is one of my favorite Christmas albums it puts everything into perspective and prepares the path for the coming of Love into the world. The whole Cd is a beautiful journey through what matters most at this time of the year…and to be lived throughout the whole year.

Amy Grant is still the all-time favorite for Breath of Heaven and a beautiful reflection that is so appropriate for this Feast of the Immaculate Conception. What must it have been like, a young woman to whom Gabriel appeared, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and be called Son of the Most High…” (Luke 1:28-32)

Let us ponder and reflect this day of the gift that Mary too brought to the world, Her fiat set salvation in motion. Her yes is a model for us. At God’s request we too can say yes to all that He asks; most especially today in the midst of the turmoil, materialism, and selfishness that pervades our world.

What yes will we consent to in our own lives to bring light to the darkness?

Our consent to God’s will can transform our hearts, our families, and our world if we but humbly, willingly surrender our lives to God?

In imitation of our Blessed Mother, say yes, and let God make a miracle out of our life.

The Arrival

Arrival of what perhaps you ask .

What is so important, am I up for the task?

There are presents to buy, wrap and give,

I have a life and I’ve got it to live.

It’s Christmas after all, what’s else matters,

Lights and trees, and gifts that flatter.

What does it matter if my faith is in tatters?

Jesus was then and this is now

He is pas-ay, old news, irrelevant somehow.

Now hold on a minute I have some thoughts to share,

open your mind and listen if you dare.

What kind of friend would leave you to die

rotting in sin, filthy and why…

Wouldn’t you be happier in heaven my friend,

singing with angels, joy without end?

Into being you came, by God’s simple thought

you were ransomed, my friend your salvation He bought.

Despite all this, He knew the choices you’d make,

excluding Him, choosing wrong, living for your own sake.

You are worth any price, so the cross He did take,

crushed and bruised all for our sake.

Twas better to suffer such painful torment

eternity with you was worth every cent,

so He laid down His life, and to the grave He went.

So consider this gift that comes in a manger

not wrapped up in gold, nor any stranger.

Your Savior and your King, desiring your love

the best Christmas gift ever, sent from above.

Barbara Lishko

Listen and Believe

Tis the season for sweets to be sure. Amateur and professional bakers and candy makers let visions of possibilities dance in their heads. I am no different and have a particular affection for all things sweet. My training, albeit incomplete was in pastry and it has been my go to for decades.

I am preparing for an annual party that features just desserts- all homemade and I like to think exquisite, delicious and all made with an overabundance of love and care. I do it all and it is literally my gift back to those who are a part of our life through out the year. I love planning it, preparing the sweet treats and executing an evening that I hope is magical, anticipated and enjoyable. This is just one of the ways that I pour myself out in gift 🙂

I am currently dreaming up Truffles…. Here is a standard recipe that I have used over the years and lends itself to so many varieties- so have fun, get creative and let me know how it all turned out!!

Basic Truffle base

1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream           13 oz. semi sweet chocolate pieces (Nestle’s is a good choice-use REAL chocolate)

In a heavy saucepan, add the cream and heat up until bubbles are forming on the edges, give it a quick stir and let the bubbles form again and shut off the heat. Measure out, using a scale or 1- 12 oz bag    plus a small handful (this is not rocket science here, be brave little baker) Add the chocolate to the hot cream and let set a couple of minutes. Whisk until the chocolate and the cream form a smooth decadent ganache (see, now you know how to make a ganache-but we will talk about that in another column, as this is way too thick to use for icing a torte etc)

Now the real fun begins…here is when you can get creative. You can leave the base plain if you want to have a straight up chocolate truffle, or you can really expand the universe of truffles and try something new. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Peanutbutter Truffles: add 1/4 smooth (or crunchy) peanutbutter- stir until smooth-dip in milk chocolate and roll in crushed peanuts

Mint Truffles-Add 1/2 t of peppermint extract, and 1 t. peppermint Schnapps (opt.)-dip in dark choc and sprinkle with crushed candy canes

Orange Grand Marnier– 1 T Grand Marnier and 1/2 t orange extract, 1 t. extra fine orange zest-dip in dark or milk chocolate. Top with a little orange zest.

Pour the ganache into a shallow casserole dish that has been lined with plastic wrap, top with more plastic wrap and place in the fridge to cool and set. After a couple of hours the ganache will be firm and you can scoop out small spoonfuls and roll quickly into balls-place back in fridge to set. Prepare dipping chocolate-

Choose a good chocolate to enrobe your truffles. Chocolate is tempered when we buy it so what is most important to the amateur cook, is to NOT overcook it and get it out of this precious state of being. First time or fearful bakers should just go with Nestles milk or semi sweet chocolate chips as they have a good flavor, are already uniform size and are the easiest and most dependable to work with I have found over the last 2 decades). Pour semi-sweet chips into a glass bowl- just pour the whole bag, heat for 150 seconds on HALF power. Take the bowl out and stir until melted. NEVER melt chocolate on HIGH, NEVER.

Place a bigger bowl or a sauce pan with hot water below the bowl to keep the chocolate the right temperature. Take the truffle balls out of the fridge and one at a time, drop them into the chocolate. QUICKLY swirl to coat and remove with a fork. I tap on the edge a couple of times and scrape the fork across the edge as I turn them onto a parchment covered sheet pan. If you are adding a garnish (crushed nuts, candy canes, zest etc. add that after you have dipped about 3) Don’t let the chocolate set before adding garnish. You can also go back when they are all set and swipe with chocolate or pipe a design too.

Continue to stir the dipping chocolate so that the temp stays consistent especially with the stuff over by the edge. Chocolate comes out of temper (those are the little white off color streaks and dots you see on chocolate. It doesn’t mean the chocolate is old- it means it has come out of temper from a temperature difference in prep or storage). If you need to melt more and keep dipping, do that. Some might ask about “white chocolate” besides the fact there is no such thing, you could use white chips to garnish or to dip but it is thicker and will discolor quickly with the dark truffle centers being dipped into it. But….you can do it, don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂

Dip in small batches and let set up in the fridge to avoid the dreaded ‘out of temper’ mess. Dip when it is cool and in a cool kitchen to help set chocolate faster.

Bottom line…HAVE FUN! don’t be discouraged, even the mess up tastes great and frankly some of the greatest dessert creations of all time came from someone trying to fix a mess up.

Let the truffle making begin!!!

The possibilities are endless


Advent Begins

This is my 54th Advent and it never gets old. It is a time for me to anticipate, renew, and realize the reality of Christ making “all things new.”

No matter how awful life can get from time to time, no matter how frustrated and seemingly hopeless we let ourselves become on those rare occasions, Advent is always a great time to rethink and recharge.

At our parish we start the liturgy in low lights, My Soul in Stillness Waits begins as someone walks down the aisle-lit candle in hand, processing towards the waiting wreath. Tonight I held the only light, a solitary figure-slowly, deliberately, carefully I made my way to the halo of evergreen. It was almost magical to be there to light the first purple candle that starts the season of Advent.

So how will I wait? How will I prepare? How will I expectantly ready myself for the coming of the Savior?

Things to ponder no doubt.

This I know, it is a time for each of us to examine our lives. What have we done with the time we have been given thus far? How have we multiplied the talents we were gifted with- have we made more, engaged ourselves for the betterment of humanity, or sadly just buried them?

“Life is short and we are dead a very long time” (Matthew Kelly) What will we do to begin anew this Advent 2013 as we move one step closer to the end of our days? What preparations have we made for the ever after by living and loving in the here and now?